Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Frequency Band Racketeering - NASS Summons NCC

The Senate and the House of Representatives committees on communication yesterday sent out feelers indicating that officials of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) involved in the racketeering of frequency band spectrum may be summoned.

While the Senate committee met behind closed doors in a meeting chaired by its deputy chairman, Senator Abu Ibrahim, they were said to have been guided by the LEADERSHIP lead story of yesterday that exposed the scam. The senators decided to write the commission to explain. But it was not so for their lower chamber counterparts as they expressly wrote the NCC executive vice chairman, Dr. Eugene Juwah, demanding explanations on the matter.

However, a source in the Senate committee who pleaded anonymity said the committee could not make a definite statement on the matter until the key actors explained their side of the story.

"I can tell you authoritatively that we are dispatching a letter summoning the principal characters involved. We are in the know of what is happening, but we will not be able to comment on the issue now. We are inviting the persons involved to state their side of the story," he stated.

Attempts to reach the chairman of the committee proved abortive as he was said to be out of town.

However, the chairman, house Committee on Communication, Oyetunde Ojo, confirmed to LEADERSHIP that the House would launch a probe into the sale of the frequency band spectrum.

The 450MHz frequency is valued at over $50million, but was allegedly sold for less than $6million by the executive vice chairman of NCC, Dr Juwah, on September 26, 2011, to Open Skys Ltd, a company said to be owned mainly by Mr Emeka Offor and his associates. NigComsat Ltd owns 25 per cent of the company's shares, LEADERSHIP exclusively reported on Thursday.

LEADERSHIP also reported exclusively that the frequency band 450MHz occupied by the police since 2009 was sold to Open Skys Ltd without any competitive bid process as provided by the NCC Act 2003, nor consideration for national security.

In a reaction yesterday, however, the NCC denied the report, saying, "the story in its entirety lacks basic understanding of frequency allocation and its processes involved, resulting in unsubstantiated information capable of misleading the public and industry stakeholders."

A statement signed by the head of media and public relations of NCC, Mr. Reuben Muoka, said the frequency spectrum allocated to the police by the commission was intact, and that the current executive vice chairman of the commission, Dr. Eugene Juwah, did not initiate the allocation of the said frequencies.

Further fact checks by LEADERSHIP yesterday, however, confirmed our story. For example, NCC's press statement said Juwah assumed office in July 2010. The frequency band licence was issued to Open Skys on September 26, 2011; while the one to Smiles was issued on September 28, 2011, right under Juwah's watch.

Also in spite of the NCC's denial Open Skys was issued frequency band licence without an operating licence, a condition forbidden by the Act setting up the NCC.

Though the NCC claimed its process was transparent and competitive, it did not provide the names of the companies that bid for the frequency ban with companies under reference. Its statement also failed to mention the date when the Board met to approve the allocations.

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